Six UAE screenwriters on prize shortlist

They make it onto a shortlist of 20 in the Abu Dhabi Film Commission's annual screenwriting competition, which is due to be announced this morning.

ABU DHABI // Six writers from the UAE made it onto a shortlist of 20 in the Abu Dhabi Film Commission's annual screenwriting competition, announced this morning. It was the first year the Shasha Grant competition accepted scripts in Arabic, and organisers said 40 per cent of entries were in native tongue, while the shortlist featured 11 Arabic scripts. A quarter of the 123 submissions came from the UAE, demonstrating a growing interest in feature film production here, said David Shepheard, the commission's director.

"This year's Shasha competition is a clear indication that we can attract more regionally specific feature film stories and writers and still maintain a strong number of entries," he said. Now in its fourth year, the Shasha Grant awards a US$100,000 prize to a film script submitted from anywhere in the world, provided it has a link to the Middle East. The shortlist will be submitted to a panel of script readers from the US, Australia, UK, and Jordan.

The panel will select six finalists, to be announced September 20. At the Circle Conference, to be held October 13-15, an international film business gathering held in tandem with the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, the finalists will be paired with international film producers who will serve as mentors. The producers will work with the writers to develop their scripts so they can be pitched to an international committee of studio executives, who will choose the final winner .

Hicham Ayouch, from Morocco, who won in 2008, has had his film Samba picked up by 20th Century Fox. Haifaa al Mansour's film Whydais in discussions with producers in the US and Europe. aseaman@thenational.ae This article has been altered to reflect that the competition accepted scripts written in Arabic for the first time this year, rather than scripts from Arabic writers.

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